This guest article is by John Jardine Goss, President of the Astronomical League. His subtitle for it is: “The perfect club project.”
Public libraries are more than just collections of books. Recognizing this, many amateur astronomy clubs are participating in a wonderful program, in which library patrons can check out a quality telescope in the same manner as they would a book. The aim is to bring the fascinating field of amateur astronomy to the public by putting telescopes in the hands of interested library patrons.
Not just any telescope will do, though. The telescope of choice is the 4.5 inch StarBlast Dobsonian by Orion. This 13-pound instrument is easy to use, is very portable,
and comes with quality optics. Novice observers can easily obtain their first views of the moon and its craters, Jupiter and its Galilean satellites, and Saturn and its rings. The brighter deep sky objects can be enjoyed as well.
A few modifications make the telescope library-ready. To help keep unauthorized fingers from meddling with the optical collimation, access to the primary mirror is physically restricted. A Celestron 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece is semi-permanently installed to prevent the inevitable loss of removable eyepieces. Full zoom (60x) splits the Trapezium stars in the Orion Nebula, while the lowest power (20x), which also gives the widest field (greater than 2º), captures the entire nebula.
With an aperture of 4-1/2 inches, the telescope captures as much light as 250 human eyes, significantly brightening dim objects – and making already bright objects very bright. Therefore, a lunar port is provided for more comfortable viewing of the moon when it is near its full phase.
The biggest problem encountered is the program’s success – just one telescope isn’t enough. With a one- or two-week check out period, the waiting list can quickly grow to three months!
This is the ideal club project, one that directly benefits the community!
Complete details can be found on the Astronomical League website at https://www.astroleague.org/content/library-telescope-program